of 29 /29
The African e-Journals Project has digitized full text of articles of eleven social science and humanities journals. This item is from the digital archive maintained by Michigan State University Library. Find more at: http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/africanjournals/ Available through a partnership with Scroll down to read the article.

The African e-Journals Project has digitized full text of ...archive.lib.msu.edu/DMC/African Journals/pdfs/Utafiti/s4NS/aejps004NS011.pdfpolitical policies and practices which have

  • Upload

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)

Text of The African e-Journals Project has digitized full text of ...archive.lib.msu.edu/DMC/African...

  • The African e-Journals Project has digitized full text of articles of eleven social science and humanities journals.   This item is from the digital archive maintained by Michigan State University Library. Find more at: http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/africanjournals/

    Available through a partnership with

    Scroll down to read the article.


  • UTAFITI [New Series] Special Issue, Vol. 4, 1998-2001: 151-178

    Nation Building and Ethnicity:Towards a Re-conceptualization of Democracy in Africa I

    C. S. L. Chachage *

    AbstractThis paper presents a critique of current conceptualizations of democracy inAfrica by tracing their antecedents in colonial anthropologicalcharacterizations where Africans were as a people in their unity and in theirdiversity. It then proceeds to offer a critique of the social, economic, andpolitical policies and practices which have characterised post-colonial Africa.It finally outlines an alternative conceptualization of democracy in African. Inthis conceptualization of democracy, focus is put on peoples' rights asindividuals and as communities rather than putting inordinate emphasis onmultipartism and period electioneering. The paper argues that what have beentermed as democratic transitions in Africa have often amounted to movementfrom the authoritarianism of one state party to that of many state parties, withissues of social justice left unattended. It concludes by an appeal tointellectuals to recognise other sites of emancipatory politics such as factories,schools, farms, households, streets, villages, and universities. It argues thatsuch emancipatory politics tend to take their inspiration from a discerniblerenewal in the search for a Pan-Africanist identifYagainst the backdrop of themarginalization to which various social forces and communities are beingsubjected by the so-called "globalization".

    IntroductionThe war that erupted on the night of 6 April 1994 in Rwanda resulted in themassacre of more than half a million people and another two million or moreforced to flee their homes. This carnage which was genocidal in scale was one ofthe many civil wars going on and still going on in the African Continent. On lOthNovember 1995, the political activist and writer, Kenule Saro-wiwa and eight co-defendants of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)were executed by the Nigerian military regime. Their sin was to accuse themilitary government-together with the international oil companies--ofgenocide (through ecological destruction and pollution of the Ogoni lands). Both

    • Associate Professor,Departmentof Sociology,Universityof Dar es Salaam.

  • C.S.L.Chachage

    events drew massive international publicity. Thus has been the news "out ofAfrica". As we enter the new millennium, most popular and academic studies onAfrica are preoccupied with "the plight of Africa", "the crisis in Africa", theexistence of tension/conflict and civil war areas (Morocco, Ethiopia, Uganda,Burundi, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Congo, Angola, Namibia, etc.) etc. FrantzFanon's prophetic words, that the "last battle of the colonized against thecoloniser will often be the fight of the colonized against each other" seem to betruer today than ever (Prunier, 1995).

    A more serious crisis facing Africa relates to the fact that a search for a theory ofsociety is no longer central in contemporary discourse: it is simply taken forgranted and not problematized. We are living in an era when the ideology of"globalization" which leads to giving up, is quite perverse and internalized. Thismyth is a conquering one, to the extent that a search for alternative policysolutions, values and truths, which would lead to the possibility of a constructionof humane societies devoid of all forms of arbitrariness, has become realdifficult. Today, these issues are viewed as not so chic to discuss about. We aretold that knowledge is no longer a cognitive appropriation of socially determinedmaterial transformations for life processes. Instead, it has become simply a post-industrialforce of production, since the real substance of knowledge is informedby the so-called developments in science (global cyberspace, theories ofeverything and progress in genetics and its aims).

    The dominant and popular politics are those of the New or Respectable Right,accompanied by the so-called triumph of liberal democracy and a free marketeconomy. It is an era when cosmologies of the human subject are completelymarginalized, since technology and economics are supposed to have merged,appearing under labels such as computer economy, electronics, services,information, etc. In sum, it is an era of celebration of the end of history (asFrancis Fukuyama would put it), even though all other histories (such as those ofworkers, peasants, pastoralists, hunter-gatherers, women, children and the youth)are excluded. Popular, academic and political thinking in Africa has increasinglyceased to debate on emancipatory politics-those politics, which would lead tothe transformation of societies so that we reach a stage where one's humanity isno longer an issue of contestation.

    The so-called post-modernism, under whose influence, many of us seem to havesurrendered to, has more or less accepted multiplicity of cultures, societies, etc.to the extent that one might just as well come to the conclusion that: "Anythinggoes!" Important questions, such as, how is society possible or what is the nature


  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    of society, are taken for granted. I am of the opinion that it is simply difficult, ifnot impossible, in contemporary situation to grasp the essence of issues such asnation building, ethnicity, democracy, social justice, equality, etc. without takinginto consideration the critique being constantly generated by our sisters andmothers in Africa. Listen to this:

    The time has come to say to the male storytellers, the male praise-singers, the malepoets, the male novelists, the male historians, the male politicians-you havemiserably failed this continent. You allowed the divide to continue between theexploited labour and profitable labour; those who toil for nothing and those who getrich on oil and diamonds and words; you allowed the divide between public andprivate-where women against all odds get family lives and intimacies going, buildingprivate capacities of all their children, while the male formulators of public spaceshave failed to establish a public narrative of humanity.

    After the oppressors left, the structures of oppression were intact except for thecolour-the oppressor was no longer white but black. There remains a link betweenmen of the continent and the money men of the colonies. No narrative has shatteredthem. The time has come for women's voices to set up plans for changing the sound ofthe continent.2

    What is this, if not a call to theorise on and about Africa from the point of viewof historical forms of consciousness of material transformation necessary for lifeprocess? Is this not a summon for us to come out with theoretical and materialarms to equip those who go to bed with empty stomachs, the oppressed,exploited, the marginalized-in short, those in the twilight zone?

    "Civilization" and the "Invention Tribes"The "invention of tribes" became a popular theme in historiography in Africa inthe 1970s, following the studies by Ranger and Iliffe (Ranger, 1983). Thesestudies revealed that particular ethnic identities have come into existence in therelatively recent past as a colonial creation: that, these ethnic categories areconstructs, which have been changing over time given the nature of the state. Itwas further demonstrated that accounts (by ethnologists, travellers andmissionaries) on 19th century pre-colonial Africa rife with "tribal wars";descriptions of whole populations perpetually at each other's throats was animperial creation to justify the intervention and colonisation of Africa (Kjekshus,1977). All this was constructed by the so-called "humanitarian movements",advocating for colonisation as a means to bring "civilization" to Africa (in thename of spreading Christianity). Itwas what the imperial writer, Kipling termed,"white man's burden"-to "civilise" those "half-devil, half-child" peoples ofAfrica (Wright, 1976). Today, we witness the same thing, whereby, USA canintervene in Somalia under the guise of humanitarianism, a country which it had


  • C.S.L.Chachage

    previously ceremoniously denied aid). It does so with claims of high moralauthority ("doing God's work" as George Bush puts it!).3

    Simply, the history of the past 400 years has been the history of intervention ofsome "superior races" into other areas of the world, within the process which"race", "civilization", "nation", "tribe", ethnicity" became the catchwords.Beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes associated with this process-whetherreligious or simply idealistic-were by the 19th century being transformed intoscientific categories, as an expression of real inequalities and forms ofdomination. Biology, in the 19th century was mostly concerned with the theoriesof "monogeny", "hybridisation", and "miscegenation" with the aim to providethe foundation of the genetic differences between "superior" and "inferior"beings.4 This elevation of racial categories to science was to find its culminationin the writings of Robert Knox the Scottish anatomist and Arthur de Gobineauthe French pseudo scientific racist in 1850 and 1853-55 respectively (Milbury-Steen, 1980).

    Fundamentally, these racial and exclusivist categories had gender and sexualityimplications. In this regard, women were very central in the representation ofthese categories as the biological "carriers" of a "race" or a "tribe". Theyconcerned material practices of the exploitation of labour and the creation of thestates in the colonies. This entailed a racist discourse within reconstruction ofpatriarchal relations, which defined the private (women) and public (men)spheres, translated into political definitions of identities. The preoccupation bythe colonial agents and anthropologists on themes such as kinship, marriage,fertility, sexuality and African religions was central in this process. Their studiesresulted into the introduction of so-called customary (native) laws, which led toimportant changes in "primary group" structures and created new forms ofpatriarchal powers, reinforcing the so-called cultural identities.5 Colonialmythologies of the African male sexual threat to white femininity were one of themain focuses in the process of categorisation of African communities. Not onlythat: the conquest and domination over the land and people of Africa modelleditself upon the power relations of masculinity and femininity. Simply,racialisation and stereotyping of race and gender went hand in hand with thetheorisation of tribes and ethnic identities in Africa, in the process, finallyproducing an African male hegemonic discourse, associated with the formationof tribes, nations and states. The state was the medium of cultural and politicalidentity.

    For these "scientific racists", the inferiority of other races could be explainedfrom the point of view of psychology and intelligence and their incapacity in this


  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    respect derived from original inequality. The views that Africans were a cursedpeople whose humanity needed to be questioned, and about African barbarism,superstition, treachery, moral depravity, paganism, sexuality, cunningness,laziness, fatalism, undeveloped intellectual faculties, ugly, etc., entered thescientific vocabulary. In sum: .

    For at least three hundred years, propositions on the inequality of the biologicalendowments of varieties of men (sic! -C.S.L.) have been put forth in some'scientific' guise or other ... the hypotheses come and go, but they tend to cluster intime and to be associated with crises about relations of different ethnic and/or racialgroups. The first bursts of contentions about the natural inferiority of a racially definedpopulation came with the spread of the Europeans into the New World. The discoveryof the American Indians, and the domination, exploitation, or extermination of them,precipitated the classic controversy Las Casas and Sepulveda ... in 1550-51.... Otherclusters in history turn up at the time of the French Revolution, with Gobineau and thearistocrats decrying the inferiority of the less privileged; the controversy between theabolitionists and the pro-slavery elements in the American South prior to the CivilWar; the rising howl at the flood tide of Eastern and Southern immigration to theUnited States (Nash, 1972).

    After the partition and colonisation of Africa from 1884, these conceptions foundtheir material expression in promulgation of outrageous laws related to native(and creation of such courts), detention without trial, prevention of vagrancy,native pass regulations, land laws which invested the radical title of all land ingovernors, etc. Violent, brutal massacres and other forms or reprisals of natives("as a means, of bringing tribesmen to parley", as some colonial officers put it) inthe name of civilization were the norm under colonialism right from itsestablishment. Naked examples are such as those took place in Congo during thetime when it was run as a private possession of Leopard II, King of Belgians,from 1885 to 1908 and continued after that. Or take the thousands of peoplesacrificed during the building of the rail connecting Brazzaville with the port ofPointe-Noire. Characteristically, such massacres have not entered Westernhistorical and moral memory like their later counterparts like Lidice in the formerCzechoslovakia-the Nazi Massacre in World War II!

    It was within this context that categorisation and definition of Africancommunities and their relationships were done. The conceptualization of "race","nation", "tribe" "ethnicity" and "ethnic identity" became the main pre-occupation of the colonial agents. In the case of Rwanda and Burundi, forexample, explorers, missionaries and other colonial agents who reached theseareas were confounded by the fact that people in these areas were linguisticallyhomogeneous, living together and often intermarrying, even though they weredifferentiated into three groups. These social groupings consisted of the Hutu,Tutsi and the Twa, without any "Hutuland", "Tutsiland" or "Twaland". Their


  • C.S.L.Chachage

    division was simply in terms of their modes of livelihood-as peasants, cattleherders and hunter-gatherers respectively, a context that placed the cattle-herdersat higher social rank as rulers. The explorers and colonial agents, so muchobsessed with race issues re-categorised them, alluding, for example that theTutsi were of Oromo descent from Ethiopia or descendants of ancient Egypt orMiddle East. Gerald Prunier quotes some of the obscene things Europeans had tosay about these people:

    The Bahima (a Tutsi clan) differ absolutely by the beauty of their features and theirlight colour from the Bantu agriculturarists of an inferior type. Tall and wellproportioned, they have long thin noses, a wide brow and fine lips. They say theycame from the North. Their intelligent and delicate appearance, their love of money,their capacity to adapt to any situation seem to indicate a Semitic-origin (Prunier,1995: 8).

    In sum, anthropologists, missionaries, administrators, diggers, planters, etc. spentmost of their time competing with each other in the production of African racialand tribal theories and histories that suited the colonial enterprise, in attempts tofind elements among Africans that would collude with imperialism.

    The above amounts to the fact that colonial powers in Africa created states,which were based on arbitrary and contradictory classification of people.Distinctions were made between what were considered to be conquerors andconquered, natives and citizens; backward and enlightened "tribes"; etc. From apeople who were organized in the form of social groups (sometimes languagebeing the basis of that organisation) and not ethnic groups, colonial powers (indifferent ways) ethnicized these groups by creating social political conditions thatwould lead later to discriminatory tendencies.

    It was absolutely imperative to divide and rule these people. In many of theBritish colonies, this was to take the form of "indirect rule". When expressed inpolitical terms, as some of the colonial agents were to put it bluntly inTanganyika (Tanzania) in the 1920s, the biggest fear they had was that of Pan-African ideals of the Ethiopian church and the possibility of Africans holding theconception of Africa for Africans. The paranoia to the emergence of a"detribalised" African (sometimes called the Europeanised African) reached apathological level. In 1917, for example, the Private Secretary to the East AfricanProtectorates (Kenya) Acting Governor, for example, was to put a suggestion onthe best way to implement a "definite policy of encouraging strong and isolatedtribal nationalism (as) one of the most effectual barriers against a Pan-Africanupheaval.. .." (1. Lonsdale, 1977). It was fear of the impact of the ideas beingwidely read and reproduced in the colonies hv Pan-African papers and journals


  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    such as, the New Leader, The Keys, International African Opinion. NegroWorker, etc., replete with accounts of struggles of African masses all over theworld. People who openly proclaimed "Africa for Africans!" spearheaded these.

    Response of the "Wretched ofthe Earth"The evolution, the systematisation and belief in certain forms of identities andfinally their institutionalisation in Africa, is best grasped as part ofthe reality of apredatory, despotic, totalitarian and destructive imperialist domination, and thestruggles of Africans against it. This was a process, which involved attempts tonegate African cultures as an expression of real material domination and Africansdefending themselves within the context of material resistance. This resistancewas expressed in various forms. It included armed struggles, fought almostthroughout Africa by communities that often co-operated. The Maji Majirebellion fought throughout the Southern part of Tanganyika between 1905 and1907, for example, is a demonstration of the fact that co-operation amongcommunities existed prior to colonial conquest.6

    Numerous examples can be drawn all over Africa to demonstrate the above. TheAfrican masses rebelled against forced labour, land alienation, taxation, etc. Themillenarian movements, such as the Watchtower; the movements led by JohnChilembwe in Nyasaland, Simon Kimbangu in Belgian Congo, Hanoc Sindano inTanzania, and many others, were also part of these struggles. Sindano'smovement (part of Watch Tower, which had followers in most southern andcentral African parts of the continent), for example, believed that The world wasin its last age; the great empires and nations were instruments of Satan; so werethe historic churches, All these would fall in one last struggle. The world wouldthen become the inheritance of the true believers, the witness of the truebelievers, irrespective of colour or race" (Ranger, 1969).

    While the African masses were rebelling, the educated Africans who emergedwithin the colonial forms of exploitation and oppression as a product ofmanual/mental division of labour (as producers of ideas-real or illusory) in aracially discriminatory system, initially surrendered and adopted the colonisers'culture. The elements had internalised and swallowed the stereotypes Europeanshad on them and their quest, as Frantz Fanon put it, was to become European(civilised) (Fanon, 1967). The paradox is that, Europeans regarded them evenmore disdainfully than the uneducated because of their tendency to regardthemselves as equal to the masters after acquiring a sense of western civilization.In Tanganyika, Governor Donald Cameron considered them to be a "badimitation of a European", while what the colonials needed was a "good African",bound to his/her culture and race (Chachage, 1986).


  • C. S. L. Chachage

    The educated Africans were outcasts: alienated from the African masses'resistance against exploitation and domination and denied a place in the"civilised circles" as a result of the paternalistic colonial racial forms ofdiscrimination and domination. Whatever they did, they were done! And therewas no other future for them, except to turn to rebellion. Henceforth, to becivilised was to be African and proud of the heritage. The solution lay in thediscovery of Africa's history and culture to counter Europe's lies. They turned tosearching those forms of civilization that did not necessarily contradictwesternality. There was no other future, except to remain African and civilised.

    This was a transformation of race thinking aimed at combating the negativestereotypes, in the form of interrogation of modes of representation.Colonialism's racial condemnation of Africans was continental in its scope, asreflected in Hegel's contention, for example, that "Africa ... is no part historicalpart of the world; .... Africa is the unhistorical, undeveloped spirit .... " (Hegel,1956:91-2); or the claims about the "Dark Continent" as far as pre-colonialAfrica was concerned. Logically, the reaction of Africans took the form ofcontinental rehabilitation. Fanon' s summation of this:

    The efforts of the native to rehabilitate himself and to escape from the claws ofcolonialism are logically inscribed from the same point of view as that of colonialism.The native intellectual who has gone far beyond the domains of Western culture andwho has got it into his head to proclaim the existence of another culture never does soin the name of Angola or Dahomey. The culture which is affirmed is Africanculture....

    ... .Colonialism did not dream of wasting time in denying the existence of one nationalculture after another. Therefore the reply of the colonized people was continental in itsbreadth. In Africa, the native literature of the last twenty years is not a nationalliterature but a Negro literature.... Because the New Guinean or Kenyan intellectualsfound themselves above all up against a general ostracism and delivered to thecombined contempt of their overlords, their reaction was to sing praises in admirationof each other.

    The poets of Negro-ism will not stop at the limits of the continent. From America,black voices will take up the hymn with fuller unison. The 'black world' will see thelight 6f B'usiafrom Ghana, Birago Diop from Senegal, Hampate Sa from Sudan andSaint-Clair Drake from Chicago will not hesitate to assert the existence of commonties and a motivepowet' that IS identical (Fanon, 1967:171).

    They too adopted the identity of African masses forms of resistance to Europeandomination, which up to the 1940s tended to take place within the context ofPan-African identity and not "tribal", "ethnic" or "national". When Italy invadedEthiopia in the mid-1930s, Africans from all the three continents reacted byvolunteering to fight in Emperor Haile Selassie's army. Kenneth Kaunda, FranzFanon, etc. are among many examples of people who were to be part of


  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    independence movements away from their countries of birth. The workers strikesin the late 1940s in many African countries were pan-territorial, and not simplycountry-based. Sembene Ousmane's God\' Bits (if Wood (Ousmane, 1986) forexample, is one of the most beautiful testaments of struggles of people, who didnot stop at being Bambara or Oulof, Malian or Senegalese. Or in this case, onedoes not need to belabour about the relations between Joshua Nkomo and theAfrican National Congress of South Africa.7 The fear by the Europeans of a Pan-African upheaval, was a result of the fact that most anti-colonial struggles, evenwhen localised, tended to emphasise on race as opposed to place or territory.

    Pan-African identity in the hands of the African educated elements had its owncontradictions. Rather than aiming at grasping the nature of African socialformations and understanding their driving force; in order to grasp the kind oftransformations which had taken place under colonialism, they only sought todemystify the myths of the "civilising mission" and intermarry pre-colonialcultures and Western Civilisation. In other words, they rejected Westerncivilization in so far as it denied them equality and appropriated from Africancivilization what was acceptable in universalistic paradigms. Their demands afterWorld War II, transformed into economic demands in the form of creation of"modern economies" of their countries by governments and the control ofresources, translated into what were to become nationalist politics, territoriallydefined by the 1884 states created thereafter.

    It was no longer "civilization", since the educated Africans had become perfectcandidates for it, by demonstrating the existence of African civilizations that didnot contradict westernality (the existence of empires (Songhai, Mali, etc.) beforecolonialism, but "self-government" and "modernization" as the new challenge. Ina way, World War II marked the beginning of the period of "second colonialoccupation". For the British colonies, the Development and Welfare Act of 1940,was to constitute the manifesto of what was to be termed "modernizingimperialism". Sir Arthur Dame, a senior official responsible for East Africa in theColonial Office was to declare in 1942 that the old nineteenth centuryconceptions were dead. The War was increasingly demonstrating that self-government was becoming an expectation of all colonies. Thus for him, Britainwas faced with the problem of formulating methods to reconcile the new forcesand the future of British interests in Africa. He rhetorically posed the question:"How are we to bind these people to us in such a way that their materialresources of strength will continue to be ranged on the side of Great Britain?"(Chachage, 1986:254). For Britain and other imperial powers, the answer wasfound in the famous Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI). In essence, thiswas an imperial reorganisation of the colonial societies getting ready for PaxAmericana.


  • C.S.L.Chachage

    This period coincided with the emergence of studies in Europe and USA dealingwith "social change", "patterns of development" and "development strategies"which promote economic prosperity. Modernization thinking's anchorage was inthe reality ofthe experiences of the epoch. It was in fact, an extension of earlierconcepts-"civilization", "progress", etc.-under other circumstances. Like inthe past centuries, these studies conceptualised change in terms of shift from onetype of society to another, one stage to another, etc. It was a continuation of theuniversalization of European modernity in the name of emancipation of "man",with "enlightenment" being seen as a struggle against superstitious beliefs(religious doctrines were, of course, not included here!), darkness and ignorance.

    It was a globalization of modernity. Societies were viewed in terms oftraditionaland modem, community and society, agricultural and industrial, tribal andnational, rural and urban, particularistic and universalist.s Development thinkingin Africa was summarized in the slogan of "War against ignorance, disease andpoverty." Henceforth, the idea of "tribe" was essentialized and consideredpremodial. The notion of modern/tradition dichotomy, which became thedominant paradigm in viewing societies associated tribes with traditionalism,which was an impediment to modernization and progress. Nations were supposedto be "modern", therefore, they had rights-social, political and economic, andtheir demands were considered legitimate. Tribes and ethnic groups weresupposed to be "pre-modem", primitive and archaic. Their demands wereillegitimate, reflecting some barbaric premodial sentiments. These wereessentially racist, exclusivist conceptions, which were internalized in ourcountries because of the failure to transcend the territorial elitist history of thecolonial masters. It was partly the internalization of those that legitimated someof the most outrageous, repressive, anti-human, undemocratic practices, undercolonialism, but now paraded under the banner of "nation building","modernization" and "development".

    The nationalist leaders who took power after independence were nurtured in themodernization tradition. Their main concern was development of their countriesin the very modernization fashion. For this process to take place, capital andtechnology from the West had to be lured into investing in these countries, andthe barriers to this process were related to the existence of "traditionalsubsistence economies". It was in this way that it became necessary to redefinerelations related to land and natural resources. Policies on land tenure, forexample, began to increasingly focus on productivity issues and specifically, onthe relationship between individualisation of land tenure on the one hand, and theuse of credit, land improvements and yields on the other. while ignoringcompletely issues of equity and justice. In this process, foreign investors and"modem" Africans had more rights over agricultural lands and other natural160

  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    resources than peasants, cattle-herders, hunter-gatherers and above all, women.These groups of people, accordingly, represented relations that militated against"modem" forms of property ownership. From being called "backward" countriesin the 1940s, these countries were baptised emerging "undeveloped" in the1950s, only to be rebaptized "less developed" in the 1960s and "developing""nations" in the 1970s (also "third world" or "underdeveloped" "nations").

    After independence, the state for the nationalists, became the sphere of moral"universalism"; a representation of some specific interests in the name of generalinterests-so--called "nation". These were the interests of the powerful classesin already differentiated communities. With these new conceptions, identityamong the African intellectuals took territorial forms. The state was the definingcharacter of nationalism and the nation--corporate in character. Modernizationwas termed "nation building". If Europe had nations, why not Africa?

    The paradox of the challenge to colonial rule from the 1940s and 1950s was, PanAfrican identity was being supplanted by other "imagined communities,,9-thenation and nationalism. In a way, this more or less marked the beginning of thedefeat of the rebelling masses. It was an acceptance of the violation of people'srights committed in 1884 by the imperial powers. The 1963 OAU Charterrecognized these territories, and in the process, condoned the domination ofEritrea by Ethiopia and Western Sahara by Morocco. This, in turn hadimplications, as far as other independent countries were concerned. The newrulers were free to oppress their own people without interference from otherAfrican countries. Once identity was reduced to a territory, it was a short step toexploiting "ethnicity"-as a vehicle for accumulation (meaning concentration ofwealth and power in a few hands and the ruination and disempowerment of themajority). Henceforth, communities and groups were ranked according to theirdifferential access to resources and power and became hierarchical. The conceptethniclty entered the dictionary for the first time in 1972. "In everyday languagethe word ethnicity has a ring of 'minority issues' and 'race relations', but insocial anthropology it refers to aspects of relationships between groups whichconsider themselves, and are regarded by others, as culturally distinctive.,,10

    Independence and the "Uncivil Republics"The World Bank formulated the models for accumulation and accelerateddevelopment in Africa in the first decade of independence. These models stressedthe need for state intervention as means to achieve industrialization. They werebeing implemented as part of what the nationalists considered to be


  • C.S.L.Chachage

    "Africanism", claimed to represent some forms of African exceptionalism-neither capitalist nor communist (African democracy, African socialism, Africanway of life, African personality, negritude, authenticity, etc.). The Atlantic worldfound no problem with these "Africanists" (or even the Mobutus and Bokassas)since they did not necessarily contradict western civilization. It was an"Africanism" which colluded with imperialism, i.e. that of the westernisedsection of the colonized.ll

    Developmentalism (or so-called nation-building which was the neo-colonialmodel) was premised on the need to concentrate powers in the executive arm ofthe state, and within that, the presidency, while at the same time pledging todeliver social services, industries and infrastructure to the people. In return,people were expected to accept a high degree of social and economic control atthe same time offer unified political loyalty. In practice, this meant erosion ofpolitical space for the masses to exercise their rights. Bureaucratic reproductionof laws rather than popular participation and political representation withouthindrance became the norm. Within such conceptions, the party and thegovernment apparatuses became the central organs in the struggles against"poverty, ignorance and disease". Development could be only effected if therewas unity among the people, expressed in the form of state project. Conflicts andopposition to state were foreign elements as far as the nationalists wereconcerned. The state had to become monolithic on the one hand and it wasnecessary to weaken the organisational capacities of the "civil society"-the verybasis under which these ruling parties emerged.

    Starting with Ghana from 1954, official opposition was refused under the claimthat it had no "national basis". Other African governments followed the samemeasures. To enforce this further, most of these governments promulgated bills,such as detention without trial, which militated against the rights of people in thename of development. Other bills were those that sought to control or abolishworkers, peasants, youth, women, mass, students and professional organizations(e.g. trade unions, co-operatives, etc.). Broadly, this concentration of powers inthe executive arm of the state which was taking place after independence was inresponse to the profound conflicts which were taking place within thesecountries. The conflicts brought to the fore the social, economic and politicalquestions in relation to the meaning of self-determination as grasped by thedifferent social groups within attempts to control social processes. The leaders ofthe nationalist movements were committed to modernization, and their generaltendency was to view the mass of the people as ignorant, primitive, lazy,superstitious, resistant to change and backward.'2


  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    Therefore, for development to take place, it was necessary to defeat the massesby concentrating the powers in the state and eroding the independence of the"civil societies". Workers were not supposed to ask for more wages as thisendangered capital investment and accumulation, and peasants and pastoralistswere supposed to desist from demanding for better prices and better conditions ofproduction for the sake of development. Nor were these supposed to defend theirlands and resources, when they have to be expropriated for the interests of theinvestors-foreign and local. Itwas in this way that the powers of the parliamentwere also broken alongside the independent mass and political movements andall other autonomous local forms of self.determination so as to create "unity andtranquillity" .

    For external purposes, the governments had to institute laws that regulated theoutward and inward movements of Africans. Under colonialism, it wasEuropeans-as an aftermath of World Wars I and II-who could be granted arefugee status (mainly from Eastern Europe or so-called enemy territories).Africans movements were considered to be part of the movement of labour-simply immigrants or labour migrants. Of course, there were deportation laws forAfricans if considered undesirable elements. With independence, Africans fromneighbouring countries were increasingly being elevated to the position of"aliens", and their movements were being controlled and administered. In thecase of Tanzania, for example, a Refugees (control) Act was enacted in 1966. Itwas essentially a reproduction of the colonial legislations, but now justified by"national security" and other ideological reasons. Rwandan, Congolese,Ugandan, Kenyan, etc. problems, were no longer African problems, but internalproblems that other African countries had no right to interfere.

    This developmentalist model seemingly registered some rates of growth in anumber of countries. Industry in Africa grew at the rate of 7.5 per cent between1960 and 1975 and the GDP growth rates between 1965 and 1973 was 6.1 percent. The state was the major source of investments, employment and socialservices and these grew substantially by then (Bangura, 1992). This accumulationmodel resulted in a profound crisis by late 1970s when most Sub-SaharanAfrican countries began experiencing negative per capita GDP growth. These fellfrom 6.1 per cent in 1965-73 to -1.3 per cent in 1987. This crisis wasaccompanied by a drastic decline in the rates of growth in agriculture, industryand services. Exports began to decline to the extent that the total debt of Sub-Saharan African countries increased from USD 21.1 billion in 1976 to USD137.8 billion in 1987 (Bangura, 1992:91-95). This, in essence, was not a mereeconomic crisis, but as Nzongola Ntalaja suggested it was a "crisis of the stateand that the neo-colonial state itself constitute[d] the major obstacles to


  • C.S.L. Chachage

    development" (Nzongola-Ntalaja, 1989: 18). Put in other words, it was a crisis ofthe state that was not responsive and accountable to its subjects. This was a resultof the demobilisation of the organisational capacities of the civil societypolitically and socially, hence leaving very little or no space at all for alternativecha Ilenges/ questions.

    What did such state forms entail? Those who manned the state power, did so byvirtual of conquest, all sorts of repressive forms, corruption, nepotism andarbitrariness. In many ways, the states manipulated the so-called ethnicsentiments. There was no legal succession as such, but only coup d'etat and armymutinies. Fanon had predicted such outcome as far back as 1961. He saw then thetendency for the independent states was to disarm everybody politically, bullythem, etc. and institute the single party system which was the "modem form ofdictatorship of the bourgeoisie, unmasked, unpainted, unscrupulous and cynical".According to him: " ...Such a dictatorship does not go very far. It cannot halt theprocess of its own contradictions. Since the bourgeoisie has not the economicmeans to ensure domination and throw a few crumbs to the rest of the country;since moreover, it is preoccupied with filling its pockets as rapidly as possible,the country sinks all the more deeply into stagnation." (Fanon, 1974:133)

    It was these forms of authoritarian rule and their accumulation forms that broughtabout the crisis in Africa. Fanon had broken off from those forms of"Africanism" being paraded by many African governments by the late 1950s. Heregarded "Africanity" in the manner in which it was being consolidated then aspart of the pitfalls of national consciousness given that it championed theinterests of the wealthy. The task, according to him, was to complete theliberation of Africa in terms of total transformation of society. Rather than acreation of black republics, the issue for him was the place people would begiven by these African leaders, "the kind of social relations they decide to set upand the conception that they have of the future humanity .... Adherence toAfrican-Negro culture and the cultural unity of Africa is arrived at in the firstplace by upholding unconditionally the peoples' struggle for freedom" (Fanon,1974: 188-89).

    By the end of the 1960s the modernist conceptions of development had reachedan embarrassing situation, and a few regimes had been toppled by the armieswhich instituted the worst forms of dictatorship and abuse of human rights in thename of stamping down "tribalism", corruption and exploitation. In manyAfrican countries corruption, embezzlement, fraud, abuse of power, abuse ofhuman rights and unaccountability had become endemic. People had been leftdefenceless vis a vis the states, and hence they had reached a position whereby164

  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    they could not fight against the arbitrary actions of the states and their violationof the independence contract, or defend their living standards, wages, prices oftheir produce, working conditions, etc.

    Thus, the Kenyan moral philosopher Oruka, was to point out by the early 1980sthat the average man and woman in Africa had become a citizen of an "UncivilRepublic", who did not have the right to liberty which embraces "freedom ofthought and opinion, freedom of speech and assembly and freedom ofemigration". These did not exist for the average man or woman in Africa:

    Those who live below the economic base line of humanity are denied the right toliberty. The average person in the uncivil republic has no complicated thought andopinion. They have but one concern: they are hungry and jobless. This is what he orshe wants to express but which they cannot express because they lack the means andthe right to liberty. Those who stand up to speak for them are easily silenced or wipedout by the tools of legal terrorism. 13

    Oruka was to further point out that all rights to work, minimum standards of life,fair wages, social security, freedom from hunger, and freedom to join tradeunions and other associations are absent. Instead, the only right guaranteed is theright to property, which is meaningful, to the few wealthy ones (Oruka, 1985:117-18).

    There are other philosophers in Africa who had also articulated Oruka's positionearlier on (1970s). For Paulin Hountondji and Marcien Towa, for instance, "thenecessity of freedom of thought and freedom in general for development ofscience" is absolutely important (Hountondji, 1983:69). They were of the viewthat it was simply impossible to have any meaningful development (includingdevelopment of thought and philosophy) without freedom of expression.Freedom of expression, for them, was seen as the precondition for thedevelopment of science, theoretical development and real economic and politicalprogress. To achieve any meaningful development, they suggested, it wasnecessary to "begin at the beginning; we must restore the right to criticism andfree expression which are seriously threatened by our regimes of terror andideological confusion" (ibid).

    Renewal of Resistance and Struggles for DemocracyWith the crisis of developmentalism the state legitimacy was in the collapse bylate 1970s. From this period onwards, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africabegan to witness an increasing tendency of active and passive resistance, most ofwhich were in response to the implementation of the World Bank/InternationalMonetary Fund (IMF) sponsored Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs)


  • C.S.L.Chachage

    since mid-1970s. SAPs insisted that liberalization and further reliance on themarket forces with less state intervention as the only way to stimulate productionof traditional exports and overcome the crisis. Therefore, it also meant theintensification of the processes already taking place under the independencemodel. This process was accompanied by the devaluation of the currencies, pricedecontrols, imposition of various forms of taxation, introduction of user chargefees (so-called cost-sharing in health, education, etc.), removal of subsidies forinputs for the rural producers or food for the urban working people, as well as theretrenchment of the workers in the civil and public sector.

    Active and passive resistance which was taking place in Africa aimed atreshaping and restructuring power relations within these countries. It was thereawakening of the masses at grassroots level and their mobilisation fordemocratic rights against the monopolisation of politics by the dominantstructures of the state. This process was accompanied by a "growing critique ofthe role of the state and its role in human liberation" (Kothari, 1984: 14) Thedevelopmentalist model of the state was no longer credible; instead, there wasincreasingly a "reconsideration of the relationship between the state and civilsociety." There was a "rediscovery of the civil society as an autonomousexpression of human social will: the whole process of decentralisation and ofrediscovery of identities." This process was also enriched and enlivened by arange of social movement which have become important contemporarily-inparticular, women, ecological and peace movements (ibid).

    In many countries in Africa (as exampled by Sudan, Zaire, Zambia, Cote d'Ivoire,etc.) internal pressures for democracl and respect for human rights Irtid beensimmering covertly for many years. I These pressures in some instances wereaccompanied by a redefinition of the societies, and the direction tended towardsviewing society as a self-creative entity. It was, therefore necessary to createsocial and political capacities to challenge state monopolisation of politics anddecision-making. Civil society as concept by early 1980s had been transformedto embrace social and political movements, and the whole question ofemancipation of the people. IS

    It may be the case that in some military state ruled countries such as Nigeria andGhana the question of democracy and human rights was posed in terms ofestablishment of a multi-party system. Otherwise, this question was posed inbroader terms. Beyond the demand for various freedoms (of speech, conscience,thinking, press, etc) there was a challenge of the need to create autonomous civilorganizations and the need to re-conceptualise the type of politics and politicalorganizations which would enable these countries to transcend the colonial andneo-colonial established arrangements.166

  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    The popular democratic opposition to SAPs that emerged in the 1980s seeminglywas in some instances threatening to destroy the fundamental basis of the liberalorder and the institutions of privatization and market forces. For the Atlanticworld, this was support for totalitarianism and against political and civil libertiesas it was against economic freedom for private capital. The history of the las~fifty years or so demonstrates one fact: authoritarian (or totalitarian) regimes ofthe Right which protect private capital even if they go against political and civilliberties are more preferred than the so called Left authoritarian (or totalitarian)regimes, that may mess around with private property for the sake of the majorityof the mass of the oppressed people.

    For the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and their local supporters inAfrica, the problem was not lack of mass democracy; rather it was that of how toput forward a defence of capitalism by trying to justify economic liberalizationand commercialisation of public and civil institutions and its consequences as faras the majority of the people are concerned. SAPs, if anything, merelyrestructured capital (private and public) which benefited from the statist model ofthe 1960s and 1970s around newly deregulated branches (mainly import-exportactivities and the plunder of natural resources). For the working people thesemeant further marginalization, aggravation oftensions and more hierarchization.The practical problem for the IFIs and their local supporters was how to winpopular support for the SAPs measures and the market order, which areessentially anti-people and anti-human rights.

    As demonstrated in the history of the Atlantic world in terms of safeguarding theso-called "economic freedoms", the struggle for or against democracy and humanrights has always been in terms of how to institute/elect regimes which would notset out to destroy the fundamental basis of market economies and the functioningof capital in general. The struggle over the nature of democracy and human rightsat the time of independence was more or less dominated by this assumptioncovertly or overtly. Regardless of whether we are talking about the Westernworld or Africa the biggest fear is the rule of the majority of oppressed.Democracy and the struggle for human rights in this sense are regarded asprinciples, which can undermine the ideals of economic liberty. Therefore, evenin the case of Africa, the problem has been how to safeguard economic liberty ina mass democracy situation (ifthis can not be prevented). In other words, how tomake the modern state, which claims to represent the interests of all, exercise itslegitimacy in the face of mass opposition. It is in this way that the struggle forbroad democracy was derailed in Africa by the late 1980s. Instead, the wholequestion of democracy was reduced to multi-partism.


  • C.S.L.Chachage

    The fact that single or multi-party regimes all over the world have made sometotalitarian demands on their members/groups/sections of groups/classes andeven individuals at every time in the interests ofthe nation/country (read govern-ment) is indisputable. And the struggle since the emergence of the modern statehas been in terms of whether the state can dominate the "civil society" or the"civil society" dominates the state (not as dichotomies, but as mutually exclusiveentities) (Gamble, 1981: 151 ff.). SAPs and their implementation and civil andpolitical liberties are incompatible, since the former strives to go against the veryrights that the majority of the poor people are struggling for.

    Towards a Reconceptualization of DemocracyLiterature emerging currently on the experience of democracy in Africa indicatesthat there is a dire need for critique of multi-party politics in Africa (Olukoshi,1998). While the emergence of opposition parties that aim at constitutionalchanges in Africa is an important turning point in the process of political change,however, without exception, most of the parties that have emerged/exist so farare elite parties. There are hardly any organic representatives of mass orcommunity organizations in these parties. There is a clear acceptance of theuniversal concept of liberal democracy and human rights among most of theseparties, whereby the connotation is simply accountability of the ruler as the majorissue. Democracy and human rights are viewed in terms of forms of rule thatincludes the right of representation, organisation and expression. It is individualrights that override in this conception, rather than peoples' rights as individualsand communities. It is a matter of the ballot box, and it does not matter whatmeans one uses to get the votes.

    In essence, the forms of democracy which have been introduced in Africa in the1990s, rather than deal with the crisis facing the continent, have sowed moreseeds of discord given that they defend politics of exclusion and inclusion,privileges and denials. The winning and losing of votes is based on mobilisation,which includes mobilisation of even forms of identities, imagined or real. Thesimple game is, who ever is in power will definitely exclude the community thatvoted against them. Thus, in this context, the issues of "Who originates fromwhere among those in power" or "which party represents which people", becomethe real stuff. In other words, the situation, like in the past the issue becomes thatof which interest group is in a position to influence legislation. The result isreinforcement of discriminatory tendencies. Here, I have in mind the "ZanzibarQuestion" in Tanzania, whereby, with multi-partism what has emerged is whatsome people have termed "Pemba nationalism". Tanzania as a country that wassaid to have dealt with problems related to "ethnicity" is today marred with


  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    politics that tend to raise such issues. Not only those, but even religious (inter andintra) conflicts have increasingly arisen with multi~partyism.

    It is the cult of the "universal" that dominates in the conceptualization ofdemocracy and human rights. This "universal" is defended unquestionablywithout seeking to uncover its anchorage in Africa. The fact that democracy hasalways existed as a historical mode of politics is completely forgotten.Democratic revolutions in the world have always taken place within the contextof redefining relationships, so that the oppressors have always been the enemiesand the masses have always been those in the oppressed camp (even if these arealso differentiated). In this way, for example, struggles for democracy in Francein the 18th Century were directed against the feudal aristocracy and the monarch,and the bourgeoisie was part of the masses. The major issues being dealt withwere political ones. When the issues of social justice came to the fore later on,the bourgeoisie was already representing different interests, other than those ofthe oppressed masses. In Africa today, democracy has to be viewed from thepoint of view of those who are victims of the prevailing systems.

    Democratic "transitions" in Africa currently have not taken into account issues ofsocial justice. That is they are not directed at questions of redressing imbalances,inequalities, exploitation, etc, and all the talk is simply about setting-up"democratic institutions" and "good govemance.16 Clearly, the change takingplace in Africa is in terms of movement from the authoritarianism of one stateparty to that of many state parties. The existing and emerging parties, withoutexception have confined themselves to the realm of fighting to remain or to enterthe state houses (read the treasury). As far as popular politics are concerned, thebroad masses are only mobilised for voting or support of policies.

    These parties have even put a wedge between politics and economics by insistingthat the only site of politics is the parliament. They have even failed to organizeor facilitate the emergence and consolidation of independent labour, peasant,women, youths and peoples' movements. Often than not, the tendency for theseparties has been to distance themselves from such organizations and suchactivities. Inevitably, such forms of politics are resulting into further social andpolitical demobilisation ofthe civil organizations, as it is happening in countriessuch as Zambia and Tanzania where all attempts have been/ are being made tomuzzle the trade unions and other more organic organizations. Clearly, multi-party politics are still imprisoned in the state-controlled conceptions of politics.These politics are doing even more harm by reinforcing the politics of "them"and "us". As it turns out now, for example, Kenneth Kaunda's citizenship isbeing questioned. Not only that, Ivorians are now cIamouring for Cote d'Voirefor Ivorians only! In South Africa, it is the Makwerekwere (foreigners from


  • c. S. L. Chachage

    "Africa") who are causing hardships in the country! Citizenship and "ethnic"issues are being politicised than ever before, and in the process, some people orcommunities becoming the scapegoats while the real oppressors are let to go freewith impunity. The milieu of racism under which these conceptions wereconceived is completely forgotten!

    In actual fact, political liberalization that continues currently in Africa is takingthe form of another monopolisation of political participation by very narrowcircles of elites. This process is also increasingly accompanied by furtherweakening of the civil society's organisational capacities. The reason is, thispolitical liberalization does not preclude the predominance of state repressiverelations to the civil society, since most of the emerging parties are pro-liberalization in one way or another. The SAPs measures in Africa in generalcannot be sustained without repressing the producers who demand for betterworking/production conditions or provision of the social services as communitybased rather than individual responsibilities. I have in mind here the Nigerianexperience of 1989 when the people rejected SAPs through a referendum and thegovernment had to use force, including shooting those who protested against themeasures, to implement them.

    People who are concerned with a serious social project need to consider thequestion of people's rights and democracy with a sense of social and politicaldeterminism rather than economic determinism. Emphasis should be on viewingsociety from a relational point of view, whereby collective phenomena are seenprimarily as expressions of enduring relationships. Such a conception entails a"transformational model of social activity" with emphasis on the question ofchange and history (Bhaskar, 1979:34). With such premises, democracy andpeoples rights can only be viewed from the point of view of relations amongpeople and how they treat/resolve their differences and also between the peopleand the state. The issue is how the differences between workers and bosses,peasants and merchants, students and teachers, men and women, youths andelders, Moslems and Christians, Africans and Asians/ Arabs/Europeans, majorityand minorities, people and state, etc are resolved/treated. It is in this light thatone can understand why workers, peasants, professionals, students, youth,women, communities have been demanding for autonomous organizationsagainst party and state authoritarianism as a means to reconstruct the relationsbetween the people and the state, and create the possibility of domination of thestate by the civil society.

    In this regard, democratisation as a process involving relational aspects isinevitably a political process that must focus on the people rather than the state.Its central problem should be the question of treatment/resolution of differences170

  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    among the people themselves in society, rather than the question of forms ofgovernance/state. One of the most important issues, within this context, should bethe question of a social project in terms of the possibility to conceptualise thetype of society people would like to build. Questions like what is the motiveforce of society (intellectuals? bureaucracy? economic forces? social struggles?).Transition to what? In what way do people want their societies/communitiesorganized? Which is the most advanced class/group to undertake such a projectpolitically? are quite pertinent.

    Democracy and human rights as a process of transforming the state, requires oneto focus on the politics of social and political emancipation of the people. Weneed to deal with issues such as: in which way is production organized? Who isproducing, and who is appropriating the surplus? What forms of accumulationare taking place? -In sum, the relations of subordination and resistance at thelevel of production. Questions such as who is demanding for democracy andhuman rights are quite legitimate. Therefore, of paramount importance are thequestions of the historical experiences and the practices of concrete social groupsin terms of how they define their social and political project, or how they arriveat one position as opposed to another (including their ideological expressions).

    I believe democracy and the quest for human rights has to make sense to theinterests of the contending groups. It has to be linked to the whole question ofrestructuring social relations so that individuals, groups and organizations areable to pose the questions of the control of resources and those of social andpolitical emancipation more sharply. Politics of "nation-building" and multi-partyism in Africa simply reduce politics to the number of parties and the numberof votes. It is for this reason that such politics are elitist, since their assumption ispeople do not and are incapable of thinking, and therefore, they must berepresented. People are incapable of making their own history; it is only theparties and the state which are capable of doing so. Here the attempt is to denythe existence of politics outside the parties and the state. I?

    Emancipation politics require that one recognises that the other sites of politicsbeyond the parliamentary building are such as the factory, the farm, thehousehold, the street, the village, the school, the university, etc. They require theinvolvement of all the people in resisting state arbitrariness and all forms ofdomination and exploitation. Such politics, in this world today, requires arenewal of Pan-African politics, which aim at redressing the wrongs under whichAfrica has been subjected for centuries. "Nation building", in its current formleads to balkanisation. Salvation lies in the renewal of a militant Pan-Africanistidentity (of those who have been enslaved, colonized, dominated and neo-colonized historically), which singles out the collaborators and those who have


  • C. s. L. Chachage

    benefited or still benefit from the current chaos,18 organized around the questionsof redressing imbalances in their various ramifications. Wole Soyinka has madethe following observation:

    Beginning with the Organization of African Unity, which formally consecrated this act(the division of Africa-CSL) of arrogant aggression, reinforced by civil wars onvaried scales of mutual destruction in defence of imperial mandate, the continent as awhole appears, however, to have swallowed intact this explosive seed of disunity-under the iron banner of unity. If only African leaders could become acquainted withhow much-just to illustrate the hollowness of such beginnings-the division of Indiaand Pakistan (and the allocation of their respective boundaries) owed to the whimsicaldecisions of a mere civil servant imported straight from Whitehall, someone who hadnever even visited the Asian continent until then, but was selected for the 'objective'distancing that that very arrogance was presumed to confer on him, was given adeadline of a mere twenty-eight days to complete his task in order to ensure that thecontinent was effectively divided before Independence Day-such leaders andcheerleaders would learn to be less cocky about the mangy claims of 'nationalsovereignty'. Much of the division of Africa owed more to a case of brandy and a boxof cigars than to any intrinsic claims of what the boundaries enclosed (Soyinka, 1999:36-7).

    These words must be taken seriously. In this case, the first and foremost task is toreconstruct our history to demystify and combat the "nation-building" historiesthat are leading to more partitioning of Africa. We need historical forms ofknowledge whose content represents an intervention in the current social reality;historical knowledge that analyses possibilities of social transformations, helps topresent the social identity of the African masses beyond these 1884 falseboundaries. The current fundamental issue is to examine the weaknesses andstrengths of the rebelling classes and seek ways to equip them as history makers,within the specific historical moment and in a specific social milieu (class,gender, caste or race specific). We need forms of historical knowledge which willequip us with such knowledge that would enable us to struggle for building afuture that has no place for contesting one's humanity.

    "Globalization" in this epoch is mere reinforcement of the universalistic cult(which has always defined and categorized us) of a program of desired than anempirically supported understanding of more general trends in internationalrelations. As it is increasingly revealed in many African countries, the paradox ofglobalization is that the inclination of the state to intervene in economic affairshas tended to increase over the years. This is regardless of the political, economicand ideological rhetoric. This tendency has been increasing when itseffectiveness has been on the decline. The intervention has been in terms ofadjustments to cope with inflation, trade policies, land and natural resourcespolicies and laws, labour laws, tax incentives, export subsidies, privatization,


  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    sectoral policies (in terms of planning and integration of activities), researchpolicies, regulations and controls. Part of the reason is, measures which seek toreduce public expenditure, human development and welfare are incompatiblewith democracy and people's rights. People have been resisting against thesemeasures. This has, on the whole, meant the expansion of state bureaucracy witha weakening power in the economic sphere.


    1. This paper was originally prepared for the Pan African Civic Educators Network (PACE-NET) Conference (7-10 September 1999), on behalf of Tanzania Gender NetworkingGroup Programme (TGNP). The author was then based at the University of Cape Town(Department of Sociology). He is wholly responsible for the views expressed. One of thecriticism the author anticipates is that the whole issue of "citizenship" both as a judicialconcept (statist) and as a concept of civil society (social and civil) is not adequately dealtwith as a prelude to discussing ethnicity and nation building in post-colonial Africa. Theissue of 'ethnicity', 'nation', and 'identities' are also not treated adequately in this paper.All of these issues merit treatment in a separate paper which will be submitted toUTAFITI in the near future.

    2. This was sounded by Angie Krog in the Book Fair in Harare (Zimbabwe) in early August1999. The theme of the Book Fair was on "Women Voices, Gender, Books andDevelopment". Quoted by The Sunday Independent, 8 August1999.

    3. P. Williams & Laura Chrisman (eds), Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory,Columbia University Press, New York, 1994, p. 3. They further on state that, " ... articlesand editorials in respectable newspapers such as the Sunday Telegraph can call the Westto go back to Africa and sort out the mess into which their national governments have ledthem-all these indicate how much of the room for manoeuvre of the colonial periodremain in place."

    4. H. Spencer, "The Primitive Man-intellectual" in Source Book for Social Origins,University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1967, p. vi. Spencer drew an analogue betweenAfricans and children in his account.

    5. The concept "extended family", for example, which is today taken as given is aeurocentric one It defined other primary relations from the point of view of Europeanforms of organization-the "nuclear family". In reality, this meant redefining the socialroles. Thus, today, "civilized Africans" call their father's brothers and mother's sister'suncles and aunts respectively, instead of elder or younger father and mother. This hasresulted into the creation of exclusionist relations in wider relations and negation ofsocial roles attendant with them. To be "civilized" is to belong in a "nuclear family"!Very few African languages have the equivalence of the concept "family" and conceptsare an expression of social relations.


  • C.B.L. Chachage

    6. G.C.K. Gwassa, "Kinjikitile and the Ideology of M1lji Maji", in T.O. Ranger & 1.Kimambo (eds) The Historical Study of African Religion, Heinemann, London, ]972. Onpg. 203, he noted: "Most of the peoples of the Maji Maji area were organized on smallscale, usually clans which constituted political units .... Yet despite this apparent diversityand extreme disunity, the effects ofthe slave trade and of raids ofthe Ngoni and Yao andthe constant movements of peoples had produced so complex an ethnic admixture that itbecame impossible to draw meaningful ethnic boundaries ... the Ngindo, who played animportant role in Maji Maji ... were scattered over the whole area between Rufiji andRuvuma rivers and between the coast and Lake Nyasa ....

    " ... the old view that southern Tanzanian peoples had had little in common, that they wereperpetually at each other's throats, that they were so divided and weak that it wasimpossible to combine, falls away.... a complex web of cultural inter-mixture, and ofwide ranging social and marital relationships had been woven by events taking placebefore and during the nineteenth century."

    7. It is ironical that after his death on 1st July 1999, the South African press hardly coveredthe event the way that it deserved. It pains one to imagine that the South AfricanBroadcasting Corporation had to look for Ian Smith and interview him about Nkomo,rather than activists from Zimbabwe, South Africa and elsewhere who worked with him.Compare this with the coverage ofthe death of J.F. Kennedy Jr. by the same press!

    8. For details on modernization theories, see M. Blomstrom & B. Hettne, DevelopmentTheory in Transition, Zed Press, London, 1985; A. Webster, Introduction to Sociology ofDevelopment, MacMillan, London, 1984. Even Marxism was an Universalist theory ofmodernity, which conceived history as universal and globalizing. His comments (togetherwith Engels) on the Latin American Spaniards whom he considered as degenerates;Engels' view that the conquest of Algeria by the French was "an important and fortunatefact for the progress and civilization " of those Bedouins; Marx's remarks on the"civilizing mission" of British imperialism or his remark that the Chinese had to be fedwith opium in order to be brought to civilization; etc. are quite revealing in this regard(see Jorge Larrain, Ideology and Cultural Identity: Modernity and the Third World, PolityPress, Cambridge, 1994).

    9. This concept was introduced by Benedict Anderson in his, Imagined Communities:Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso Press, London, 1983. Onpage 15 he stated that a nation "is an imagined political community-and imagined asboth inherently limited and sovereign." " It is imagined because the members of even thesmallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hearof them, yet in their minds of each lives the image of their communion".

    10. T. H. Ericsen, Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives, Pluto Press,London, 1993, p. 4. According to him, the concept is derived from Greek word ethnos,which originally meant heathen or pagan. That is how it was used in English from mid-14th century until mid-19th century, when it began to refer to racial characteristics. InUSA, the word came into currency after WW II, as a polite term to refer to Jews, Italians,Irish, and other people who were considered inferior to dominant groups-the British.

    11. No wonder Senghor (the first President of Senegal), one ofthe founders of Negritude andAfrican Socialism, once said, he could sing his negritude better in French.


  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    12. Andreas Fuglesang in "The Myth of People's Ignorance" in Development Dialogue(1984: 1-2, pAS) states that "the myth that poverty somehow results from ignorance is anelitist, ethnocentric interpretation of an international problem, the roots of which lie notin reality but in prevalent middle-class attitudes originating in the North. The attitudes areespoused by professionals educated in European traditions." Within the North thiselitism, according to E.P. Thompson in The Poverty of Theory (Merlin Press, London,1978, p.377) "stands as direct successor in the old lineage: Benthamism, Coleridgean'clerisy', Fabianism, and leavisism of the more arrogant variety. Once again, theintellectuals--a chosen band of these have been given a task of enlightening people-(itis) marked by...very heavy emphasis upon the ineluctable weight of ideological modes ofdomination which destroys every space for the initiative or creativity of the mass of thepeople--a domination which only the enlightened minority of intellectuals can strugglefree."

    13. Henry Odera Oruka, Punishment and Terrorism in Africa. Kenya Literature Bureau,Nairobi, 1985, p.117-18. By legal terrorism Oruka is referring to the state.

    14. Peter Anyang' Nyong'o (ed), Popular Struggles for Democracy in Africa, Zed Books,London, 1987. According to Nzongola-Ntalaja (Revolution and Counter-Revolution inAfrica, Zed Books Ltd, London, 1987p. 92.), Congolese ordinary people had come to theconclusion that what was required in their country was a "second independence."According to them, the 1960s independence had failed; that independence was"meaningless without a better standard of living, greater civil liberties, and the promise ofa better life for children. Instead of making these promised benefits available to themasses, the politicians who inherited state power from the Belgians lived in much greaterluxury than most of their European predecessors and used violence and arbitrary forceagainst the people."

    IS. I.G. Shivji, Fight my Beloved Continent: New Democracy in Africa, SAPES, Harare,1988. This civil society/state relationship discourse is radically different from the otherone that supports liberalization and the operation of market forces in response to whatthey termed "informal".or "second" economy. The World Bank and the IMF mainlypromote the latter conception of civil society. Examples of authors who use the conceptin this manner are: R.H. Bates (Essays on the Political Economy of Rural Africa, CUP,Cambridge, 1983) and Janet MacGaffey, ("Initiative from Below: Zaire's 'Other Path' toSocial and Economic Restructuring", in G. Hyden & M. Bratton (eds). Governance andPolitics in Africa: Perestroika Without Glasnost? Lynne Rienner, Colorado)

    16. The political vocabulary in Africa nowadays is devoid of words such as exploitation,oppression, domination, class interests, neo-colonialism and imperialism. Instead, wordslike participatory/grassroots development, economic liberalization and donors/partners indevelopment have become so ubiquitous.

    17. Chinua Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah, (Heinemann, London, 1987) which sought totranscend the elitist politics remained trapped in the power games within the state. lfiAmadiume's ("Class and Gender in Anthills of Savannah: A critique", Pal Platform VolI No I, 1987, pp. 8 ff) criticism of the book is very interesting on this regard.

    18. Current literature by Western analysts seems to be celebrating the chaos in Africa bycoming out arrogantly with open racist conceptions. One of the example is the book byPatrick Chabal & Jean-Pascal Daloz, Africa Works: Disorder as a Political Instrument,


  • C.S.L. Chachage

    James Curry in Association with the International African Institute, Oxford, 1999.According to them, "disorder", rather than being viewed negatively-as "a state ofdereliction. It should be seen as a condition which offers opportunities for those whoknow how to play that system." (p. xix) They even talk openly about the fact that there isthis thing called "Black Africa"-"that is former European colonies lying south of theSahara-excluding, thereby, the countries of North Africa (from Morocco to Egypt). Wealso leave South Africa, whose history is so distinct as to make comparison difficult atthis stage." (p. xxi)


    Achebe, C. 1987. Anthills of the Savannah. London: Heinemann.

    Amadiume, 1. 1987. Class and Gender in Anthills of Savannah: A critique. Pal Platform Vol 1No I, 1987.

    Anderson, B. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.London: Verso Press.

    Bangura, Y. 1992. Authoritarian Rule and Democracy in Africa: A Theoretical Discourse. InL. Rudebeck (ed) When Democracy Makes Sense. Uppsala: AKUT.

    Bates, 1983. Essays on the Political Economy of Rural Africa. Cambridge: CUP.

    Bhaskar, R. 1979. The Possibility of Naturalism. Sussex: Harvester Press.

    Blomstrom, M., & B. Hettne. 1985. Development Theory in Transition. London: Zed Press.

    Chabal, P. & Jean-Pascal Daloz. 1999. Africa Works: Disorder as a Political Instrument.Oxford: James Curry in Association with the International African Institute.

    Chachage, C.S.L. 1986. Socialist Ideology and the Reality of Tanzania Ph D Thesis, GlasgowUniversity.

    Ericsen, T.H. 1993. Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives. London: PlutoPress, 1993.

    Fanon, F. 1967. Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove.

    -. 1967. The Wretched of the Earth. Harmmondsworth: Penguin.

    Fuglesang, A. 1984. The Myth of People's Ignorance. Development Dialogue: 1-2.

    Gamble, A. 1981. An Introduction to Modern Social and Political Thought. London:MacMillan.


  • Nation Building and Ethnicity: a Re-conceptualization of Democracy

    Gwassa, G.C.K. 1972. Kinjikitile and the Ideology of Maji Maji. In T.O. Ranger & I.Kimambo (eds). The Historical Study of African Religion. London: Heinemann.

    Hegel, F.G. 1956. The Philosophy of History. New York: Dover Publications

    Hountondji, P.J. 1983. African Philosophy: Myth and Reality. London: Hutchinson UniversityLibrary.

    lliffe, J. 1979. A Modern History of Tanganyika. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Kjekshus, H. 1977. Ecological Control and Economic Development In East African History.London: Heinemann.

    Kothari, R. 1984. Communications for Alternative Development: Towards a Paradigm.Development Dialogue. 1-2.

    Krog, A. 1999. "Women Voices, Gender, Books and Development". The Sunday Independent,8 Augustl999.

    Larrain, J. 1994. Ideology and Cultural Identity: Modernity and the Third World Cambridge:Polity Press.

    Lonsdale, J. 1975. Some Origins of Nationalism in Tanzania. In L Cliffe & J. Saul (eds).Socialism in Tanzania Vol I.Nairobi: East African Publishing House.

    MacGaffey, J. 1989. Initiative from Below: Zaire's 'Other Path' to Social and EconomicRestructuring. In G. Hyden & M. Bratton (eds), Governance and Politics in Africa:Perestroika Without Glasnost? Colorado: Lynne Rienner.

    Milbury-Steen, S.L. 1980. Europe and African Stereotypes in Twentieth Century Fiction.London: MacMillan Press.

    Nash, M. 1972. Race and Ideology. In P. Baxter & B. Samson (eds). Race, London: Penguin.

    Nyong' 0, P. A. (ed). 1987, Popular Struggles for Democracy in Afric., London: Zed Books.

    Nzongola-Ntalaja. 1987. Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Africa. London: Zed BooksLtd.

    -. 1989. The African Crisis: The Way Out. African Studies Review, Vol. 32 No. I.

    Olukoshi, A. 1998. The Politics of Opposition in Contemporary Africa. Uppsala: NordiskaAfrikainstitutet.

    Oruka, H. O. 1985. Punishment and Terrorism in Africa. Nairobi: Kenya Literature Bureau.

    Ousmane, S. 1986. Gods Bits of Wood, Oxford: Heinemann.

    Prunier, G. 1995. The Rwanda Crisis 1959-1994: History of a Genocide. Kampala: FountainPublishers.

    Ranger, T.O. 1969. The Movement ofIdeas, 1850-1939. In I. Kimambo & A. Temu (eds). AHistory of Tan=ania. Nairobi: East African Publishing House.

    Ranger, T.O. 1983. The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa. In T.O. Ranger & E.Hobsbawm (eds). The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Shivji, I.G. 1988. Fight my Beloved Continent: New Democracy in Africa. Harare: SAPE.


  • C.S.L.Chachage

    Soyinka, W. 1999. Reparations, Truth and Reconciliation. The Burden of Memory: The Use ofForgiveness, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Spencer, H. 1967. The Primitive Man-intellectual. In Source Book for Social Origins.Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Thompson, E.P. 1978. The Poverty of Theory. London: Merlin Press.

    Webster, A. 1984. Introduction to Sociology of Development. London: MacMillan.

    Williams, P., & L. Chrisman (eds). 1994. Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory. NewYork: Columbia University Press.

    Wright, H.M. (ed). 1976. The 'New Imperialism', Analysis of Late Nineteenth Expansion,Lexington: Heath and Company.